Stevens' formal training goes back to his days at Rutgers University, where he was a business major. While in school he was recruited for track and field and was also heavily involved with a campus fraternity. Soon after, he went on to be nominated to the position of vice president of the Fraternity Sorority Council of Rutgers and vice president of his own fraternity as well.
Once out of school, he did what most business majors do: work on Wall Street. But a job in the high-stakes, fast-paced, volatile world of stocks and bonds proved unsatisfying for Stevens, who quickly grew weary of his 90-hour workweek. He quit his job on Wall Street and took a position as a sales representative. His primary duty was marketing real-time financial information to brokers, analysts, and traders. To Stevens' delight, he loved his job.
| Q. What do you do for fun?
A. Scuba dive, weight lift, and run. I love keeping physically fit.
Q. What CD is in your CD player right now?
A. Elton John.
Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A. Harvard Business Review.
Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. Rescue Me. It was The Sopranos. I am a former New Yorker and miss the excitement.
Q. Who is your role model?
A. Tony Robbins. I want to build a significant renowned empire as he has.
Q. What makes you laugh?
A. I love a good comic with original and purposeful material.
"This was the opportunity that not only got me into sales but gave me my first career—the real-time market data information industry, currently a $40 billion industry that supports all of Wall Street," he says.
But the sales industry thereafter proved to be a turbulent one for Stevens, who would undergo a series of professional and personal challenges before finding success with his own company.
"I began my quest for career change after a tumultuous 18 months of professional and personal triumph and tragedy. In less than one year, I moved to a new city, was fired from two jobs, and lost my mother-in-law. My search for a new career took time, motivation, perseverance, and much introspection. I can now say I am doing what I love—I own my own company based in St. Louis, Missouri," he recounts.
The current chapter of his life began more than seven years ago, on New Year's Day of 2000. Like most of the rest of the world, Stevens spent the night before heralding the arrival of the millennium with friends and family. The next day he and his wife received a call from the New Jersey police informing them that his mother-in-law had passed away in her sleep.
"For several days, we planned her burial and laid her to rest in New Jersey. Several days after the funeral, we flew back to St. Louis in despair over our loss," Stevens says.
But that wasn't the only challenge Stevens had to deal with. When he returned home he found a FedEx package from his employer at his front door. Inside was a letter informing him that he had been terminated, leaving him without a job in a city he had relocated to less than a year prior.
Several weeks later he was able to find another job when the CEO of a global billion-dollar firm based out of St. Louis offered him the position of director of sales for a new business unit. He busied himself over the next nine months with a host of tasks involved in launching the new business, hiring, training, and building the department from the ground up. Adversity came knocking again, however, when the firm's owner let go of the CEO in August, and by the following month, Stevens found himself out of work once more.
With circumstances proving to be out of his control, Stevens decided that change was in order—major change.
"I was fired twice in the span of seven months, located in a new city without a large network to tap," he says. "I faced a daunting challenge ahead. After much deliberation, I decided to start my own business. I challenged myself to begin my own company and reap my own rewards. The next person to terminate me was going to be me."
Public speaking and consulting proved to be a natural fit for Stevens, who confesses, "I love to motivate and coach others toward better results; I knew that was my career calling." The thrill of building a career in the difficult and competitive world of sales and consulting provided him with a sense of confidence: "Selling was not in my career, and it was such an achievement that I can accomplish something by taking a stranger and help[ing] them meet their wants and needs."
Since launching his own firm, Stevens has steadily built upon his success, working with more than 500 major companies and corporations, including American International Group, Hilton Hotels, AT&T, The Federal Reserve Bank, Reliv International, The New York Times, Mercy Health Plans, and Quicken Loans.
The most memorable aspect of Stevens' career has been defying expectations.
"[I] was working with the president of an organization that told me to my face I was no good and I would never make a sale to a large international financial firm," he says. "Within three months of that comment I was in the air on my way to Japan to close the first million-dollar deal that company ever had. This taught me to hold my ground, stick with my goals, and always seek the finish line!"
Stevens also credits for his success the influence of several people throughout his lifetime, among them his track and field coach, whom he says taught him the importance of perseverance and the pitfalls of living in the past. He says Pope John Paul played an important role, as well, by demonstrating the importance of patience and passion.
He adds, "Currently I am working with a very prominent professional that has achieved much with his business, and he is teaching me how to build and maintain a significant seven-figure practice I can eventually retire with."
Stevens believes that success, though not easy, is by no means elusive and offers this advice to budding professionals:
"Set goals, remain committed, and think strategically. Selling professionals today are too tactical, and clients are seeking more strategy aligned with the business and relationship. Second, always seek education—selling is an ongoing process, and there is always something to learn and use in your line of work. Last, always act as the CEO of your territory—do not negotiate quickly; remember, you have profits to maintain, too!"